I travelled outside of my country before I ever really explored my homeland. My father was big on getting us out of our usual surroundings, and so, the annual road trips down the Eastern seaboard of the USA started up before I was old enough to really remember. I could list our travel route in order as a six-year-old — New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida — and I had been all over my home province of Ontario, but aside from that I’d only been in Quebec once or twice.
I’m not 100% sure how old I was when my dad decided we were road-tripping east this time, to see his friends in Nova Scotia. We took a bit of a meandering route, partly through the States, but through the course of that vacation I was enthralled at the time change in New Brunswick, amazed by the salty air and giant waffle bowls of ice cream in Halifax, and, being a young girl, pretty much died when we went to the Anne of Green Gables site in PEI. I did not, however, enjoy the jellyfish all over the beach. I saw the Confederation Bridge under construction and was secretly happy we had visited before the bridge was complete, because as long as the ferry ride over seemed to be, I hated (and still hate) bridges.
Newfoundland is far enough away from those other Maritime provinces that we didn’t make it over. Now I have so many friends who hail from that lovely part of our country and I really want to visit, to see what it’s like and how it compares to the tales I’ve been told of the best lobster ever and the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.
My real exploration of Quebec happened in high school, as seems to be the case for most Ontario teenagers enrolled in French class. We went to Quebec City, where under the watchful eye of our French teacher we mangled the language and failed to acquire booze at the dépanneur. But we did go to an awesome sugar shack, and there was another boat involved. Later on, as an adult, I’d visit Montreal a few times, marvelling at how different it felt from the rest of Quebec.
My westward adventures happened as an adult. I took a job in British Columbia on a whim, having been no further west than Winnipeg (Manitoba is no stranger to your typical Northwestern Ontario dweller). I missed out on Saskatchewan, opting to fly into Calgary, where my jaw became unhinged for the whole three-hour drive into the Columbia Valley. Man, I miss those mountains. I didn’t head any further west than Kimberly, though.
In summer 2011, I had the opportunity to fill in the rest of my westerly blanks, in painstaking fashion. My then-boyfriend, now-husband, loaded me onto the back of a Honda Gold Wing and off we went, first down to Southern Ontario then all the way back up again, destination Nanaimo. I got to see Saskatchewan, alright, though by the time we hit Regina I had had about enough of the prairies. We went all the way west, to Vancouver Island (another boat!) where I dipped my toes in the Pacific for the first time. We headed back on the Yellowhead Highway, craning our necks at the bright lights of Edmonton along the way.
That leaves the Territories still untouched, and I am eager to see them. Yellowknife, NWT, holds a mystique to me that is only enhanced by so many people I know who have gone there, counted it as a great adventure, and had that taste of the true north. Same with Nunavut — I can’t imagine what it is like. Whitehorse, in particular, holds great appeal to both my husband and me, and it is on our list of one-day vacation spots, to see if the stories match up to reality.
I have always maintained that I want to see the rest of Canada before I really get into travelling elsewhere. There is so much beauty and wonder in my own backyard.